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Annette L. Stanton, PhD

Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology
Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences
Member, UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
Senior Research Scientist, Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology
University of California
Los Angeles, California

Current Research

Goal: To improve quality of life through evidence-based interventions that promote the health and well-being of women during and after breast cancer treatment.

Impact: Dr. Stanton is conducting studies focused on understanding the challenges of adherence to endocrine therapy, coping with metastatic breast cancer (MBC), avoiding depression, and living well as an African American woman diagnosed with breast cancer. Her findings will inform effective interventions that can extend the lives and improve quality of life in patients with advanced breast cancer.

What’s next: Dr. Stanton and her team will continue to test interventions that promote endocrine therapy adherence and improve coping skills in women with MBC. She also plans to survey the experiences of a larger group of African American breast cancer survivors across the United States.

Every person diagnosed with breast cancer experiences this disease in a unique manner, but there are some aspects of the condition that many women share. These include depression, anxiety, and enduring side effects from therapy. In addition, African American women who have breast cancer face specific challenges that have a negative effect on their quality of life. Dr. Stanton is developing and testing interventions that address these issues to improve both breast cancer outcomes and the quality of life for patients.

Full Research Summary

Research area: Developing evidence-based approaches to promote the psychological, social, and physical health of women living with a breast cancer diagnosis. 

Impact: While no two women will experience the diagnosis and treatment for their breast cancer in exactly the same way, there are certain emotional and physical challenges that many share, such as adhering to endocrine therapy and managing depression and anxiety. For others, cultural stereotypes may impede their health and well-being. Dr. Stanton is conducting several studies aimed at addressing these issues in order to enhance patients’ lives.
 
Current investigation: Dr. Stanton is testing a values-based intervention to promote adherence to endocrine therapy and management of depression in both newly diagnosed women and those living with metastatic disease—breast cancer that has spread to other tissues. Her team is also conducting research to characterize the breast cancer experience of African American women as well as relevant influences on their well-being and health, such as the “Strong Black Woman” concept and ethnic pride. 
 
What she’s learned so far: Highlights from her ongoing studies include: 
 
  • Understanding adherence to therapy. Dr. Stanton and her team compared adherence to endocrine therapy through self-reporting and electronic monitoring and found that women tend to over-report adherence to endocrine therapy. 
  • Managing symptoms of depression with expressive writing and accepting diagnosis. Dr. Stanton’s team studied the effect of expressive writing on the symptoms of depression in women living with MBC. The women whose essays showed that they were able to share their experience with others living with MBC or gain psychological distance from their experience in the context of MBC experienced less depression.
  • Women at risk for depression who took part in a preliminary test of a 5-hour psychological intervention demonstrated an improvement in coping skills and a decline in depressive symptoms. In fact, women who were able to accept the diagnosis, express their emotions, and did not use avoidance tactics had few symptoms of depression or recovered well from initially severe symptoms during the 16 months after their cancer diagnosis. 
 
What’s next: Dr. Stanton will continue to analyze the data obtained from her studies and develop interventions to improve therapy adherence and relieve depression in breast cancer patients including those living with MBC. Her team will also examine the unique experiences of African American women diagnosed with breast cancer, with a focus on the relevance and consequences of the “strong Black woman” concept in the context of breast cancer. This will serve as a foundation for the development and testing of resources for African American breast cancer survivors. 
 

Biography

Annette L. Stanton, PhD, is Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry/Biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, senior research scientist at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, and a member of the Center for Cancer Prevention and Control Research in the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her research centers on specifying factors that promote psychological and physical health in individuals who confront health-related adversity, including cancer, infertility, and other medical conditions. She is particularly interested in the conditions under which specific coping processes promote or hinder health and well-being. In the area of psychosocial oncology, Dr. Stanton conducts longitudinal research to understand the influences of personality and contextual resources, cognitive appraisals, and coping processes on the quality of life and health in individuals diagnosed with or at risk for a range of cancers, including cancer of the breast, eye, lung, and prostate. She then works to translate her findings into effective interventions for individuals living with cancer through conducting randomized, controlled trials of psychosocial interventions. In 2003, Dr. Stanton received the Senior Investigator Award from Division 38 (Health Psychology) of the American Psychological Association, and in 2012-13 she served as President of Division 38. In 2013, she received the Society of Behavioral Medicine Cancer Special Interest Group Award for Outstanding Achievement in Behavioral Medicine and Psycho-Oncologic Research. She has received awards for undergraduate teaching and graduate mentoring. In 2006, Professor Stanton was honored with the J. Arthur Woodward Graduate Mentoring Award and the Distinguished Teaching Award in the UCLA Department of Psychology.

BCRF Investigator Since

2004

Donor Recognition

The Ann Taylor and LOFT Award

Area(s) of Focus